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Study Finds Financial Burdens of Cancer Care Can Cause Severe Post-Traumatic Stress among People with Cancer and Caregivers


According to a study by the Research and Training Institute at the Cancer Support Community, the financial strain related to cancer treatment makes people with cancer and caregivers vulnerable to post-traumatic stress syndrome, with symptoms that include extremely high levels of anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems. Entitled “Evaluation of the Challenges and Barriers to Accessing Financial Support for Cancer Patient Treatment,” the report, which was launched in partnership with Genentech, found that 81 percent of people with cancer and 72 percent of caregivers surveyed experienced “moderate to severe” stress levels from the monetary burdens associated with care.

“The findings startled the researchers,” says CSC’s Senior Director of Research Joanne S. Buzaglo, PhD. “It is hard to imagine, but the levels of post-traumatic stress reported were even greater than that of those who witnessed the terrorist attacks in New York City on September 11th and akin to that of underprivileged, displaced survivors of Hurricane Katrina.”

The financial burden associated with care often overwhelms people with cancer and their caregivers. “Those with the greatest economic need often fail to seek out assistance due to the distress they are experiencing and prevents them from taking advantage of the resources designed to make their lives financially and emotionally easier during a trying time,” Dr. Buzaglo notes.

“This first report makes a strong case for the importance of healthcare initiatives that address emotional distress and trauma since those in greatest need are least likely to access community-based programs and services – including financial assistance – that are available at no cost,” says Mitch Golant, PhD, CSC Senior Vice President, Research and Training Institute.

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The Cancer Support Community has a network of community-based centers and online services run by trained and licensed professionals. For more information, visit CancerSupportCommunity.org.

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, May/June 2010.